Category Archives: birthing

Baby Envy

I had a friend the other day ask me when I was going to start thinking about baby #2. The better question would have been when haven’t I been thinking about baby #2. All it took was for my post-birth stitches to heal and I was already planning for the next one.

Most new parents love the you-me-and-baby-makes-three stage, to the point that it’s a little hard to quite picture life with a second child. And it is awesome. You’re in this sort of beautiful baby bubble. But for whatever reason, my husband and I so want to be on the accelerated kid plan. Maybe it’s that we feel like we were a little late to the whole baby party (what were we waiting for anyway?) or maybe it’s because my husband was an only child and dreams of nothing less than a houseful of kids. Or maybe we just realize time is really no longer on our side. I mean, you start doing the math on how long it can take to get pregnant, how long you are pregnant (I’m of the 10-month philosophy), and how long before you sort of have things under control once baby has arrived and it’s like a two-year minimum for every kid, on average. And as painful as it may be to admit, we’re not getting any younger.

Of course making good on the promise of a second wee one is a physical impossibility for my husband and me right now. Short of a miracle–but I’m not really holding out for an act of god in this case, although in writing this I’m wondering if I should get our company prayer group praying for it–you kind of have to be in the same place for just a tiny bit of time.

This reality, of course, almost makes me want a #2 even more than I did before. And if that didn’t, the recent second baby wave among a number of my friends would do it. I’m especially fascinated, if not the slightest bit jealous, of the friends whose first babies are still little–like a year or 18 months old–and they are due again within a couple months. Are these wonderful ladies ridiculous fertile or did they use some crazy technique to shift into high-gear baby making?

Some people would say that I’m crazy; with my so-called hectic life, I need two babies in diapers like a hole in the head. True, but I still want them. And honestly, my first baby is so not meant to be an only child. Just watching him interact with other kids, I know he really wants a sibling, too.

But there are always some reservations about a #2. Most moms I know worry most about being able to love the second as much as the first. In my head that totally makes sense that so many mommies feel that way. I mean, moms have been so singularly focused on baby #1 that it’s hard to imagine having the bandwidth to be able to give that kind of love and attention to a second without somehow shafting the first. But I don’t really have that fear.

My biggest fear is about the getting pregnant with #2. Baby #1 was a whoops of sorts, so I didn’t have to stress about getting pregnant because it happened without us really planning for it. But with how eager we are to have a second, it makes me worry that our hopes will put nutty undue stress on the trying. And the last thing I want to be when thinking about a new baby is frustrated.

But I feel for mommies who don’t know that their hearts are infinitely expandable. I don’t know where I read it or heard it, but at some point it sunk in to me that when people have more children, their love is never divided; instead, it’s multiplied. I just love that idea.

While my time to multiply isn’t now, that little realization keeps me looking forward to the days when (hopefully) I won’t be able to hold all of my kids in my arms at one time. And in the meantime, I’m content to be insanely happy, even if the tiniest bit envious, for my mommy friends who are on the road to becoming mommies for the second time.

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Filed under babies, birthing, family, first year, infants, maternity, newbie parents, pregnancy

The Incredible Shrinking Uterus

My OBGYN is a little different from what you’d imagine most mommies-to-be would want in a doctor. I like him because he’s to the point, thorough, and pretty chill. I can’t stand doctors who end up scaring their patients by outlining every possible (even if unlikely) health scenario. But he doesn’t make small talk, he’s not particularly warm or fuzzy, and he doesn’t really do drama. And he’s definitely not funny.

Except during this last visit.

I went in to see him for my new mommy check up. Basically, this happens around six weeks after birth and is a chance for the doc to make sure everything had returned to normal, or at least as normal as possible. (Remember, giving birth is like having a grenade go off in your underwear.)

So, similar to a routine visit, the doc did a physical exam to see how things were coming along. The stitched area appeared fully healed and nothing was abnormally smooshy on the inside, so he moved on to checking my uterus.

Now, the uterus is basically a giant muscle that holds the baby in place during pregnancy. The contractions leading up to child birth are basically the uterus flexing, pushing the baby out. At any rate, during pregnancy, the doctor is always checking to see where the top of your uterus–the fundus–is to make sure the baby’s growing at the right rate. It starts out below your belly button and by the time you’re into month nine, it seems like it’s snuggled in between your rib cages.

It's How Big?

Post birth, the doctor checks to make sure it’s gone back to its original size. Now, original size is small. Really small. I didn’t realize how small it was until my doctor held up his thumb and his forefinger to show me.

But the part that I was really get stuck on was my doctor. He just seemed so amazed at the fact that the uterus basically shriveled up like a raisin in less than six weeks. I think he even referred to the process as “cool.” And he kept holding up his fingers to show me just how little it was. Throughout my whole pregnancy I hadn’t seem him this excited about anything. It was hard to believe after all the pregnant women he’s dealt with over the course of his career that he’d still be amused by a shrinking uterus. (Men are kind of all the same, aren’t they?)

With my uterus snapped back into shape, I scored an A on my post birth exam. So, my doc gave me the green light on the gym and sex (in that order, as if one leads to the other) and sent me packing with a birth control prescription and reassurance that post-baby sex will get better. What a way to end on a high note.

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Filed under birthing, mommy care, moms, natural childbirth, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy

Not So Hot on the Hormones

I have written before about hormones–the ones that make you sappy, weepy, and hysterical. But it turns out the hormonal changes that happen after you have a baby can have as many physical side-effects as emotional.

Up until a few weeks ago, the only hormonal changes I was experiencing was resulting in tears and more tears. But an e-mail from a mommy-friend warned me that there could be more to come. She wrote:

“SWEATING… do you have that? Hot flashes from the hormones leaving your body? I was in shock and had no idea what was going on in the hospital until they explained that one to me. Nothing worse than getting up after only an hour of sleep in the middle of the night AND being drenched!”

So, I never got the night sweats right after giving birth, but mysteriously about a few weeks after giving birth I started to smell differently. And by differently, I mean not good. My normal smell was altered and no amount of deodorant seemed to tame it.

At first I thought it was just something my hyper sensitive nose could detect. However, my mom confirmed that others indeed could smell the new, pungent me. I had gone for a walk with baby and then picked her up. It was warm out, but not outrageously hot. We got into the car and I said, “I stink.” She replied, “You do.”

Wow. How’s that for honesty?

Sadly I thought, “Hey, that’s better than night sweats.” (Those came later.) But the other really weird thing was a skin rash.

After another walk with baby (maybe it was the same one where my mom confirmed that I, indeed, did stink–I can’t remember), I got in the car. I took a quick look in the mirror–my neck had been a little itchy–only to find a wild-looking red rash, very much akin to a heat rash.

Now, I’ve had heat rash before. It was a sunny day when I took my walk, but the sun at the River (we’re near Canada for god’s sake) in June had nothing on the sun in the Dominican Republic in March the last time I got heat rash.

I popped a Benadryl and just wrote it off as a one-time thing; I really hadn’t been exposed to a lot of sun of late.

Then it happened again. And again.

So, this is weird. I’m a person who tans, damn it.

A few days ago, I mentioned this skin irritation to a dermatologist friend. She immediately fingered, as I suspected, the sun as the culprit. Other than popping a Benadryl here and there or lubing up with anti-itch cream, her prescription was to get out in the sun. Weird that a dermatologist would prescribe that.

But the worst were the mosquitoes.

It was one of those perfect River nights, complete with to-die-for sunset and my family decided we should enjoy a glass of wine on our limestone terrace. Sounds absolutely perfect, right?

Under Attack

So, I nestled into one of the super comfy faux-wicker chairs. Baby was asleep so I was ready to savor a glass of some delicious chardonnay. I took one sip, only to be interrupted by a buzzing mosquito.

Okay, that’s annoying.

But what do you say when you’re swarmed?

I’m so not joking. Within three minutes of sitting down, mosquitoes were everywhere. Buzzing around my face, pricking me through my leggings, biting me on the bottoms of my feet.

“It’s because you’re lactating,” my mom said.

Okay, I’ll accept that. Breast milk is after all super sweet and sticky. But I was still under attack.

My step-dad busted out the bug spray and I sprayed myself down with some kind of DEET without hardly a second thought about bug spray on baby. (It’s so worth the view, I assure you.)

These damn bugs were immune. They were swarming around me.

I was totally squirming, covering baby so he didn’t get hit, and trying to fend off attacks.

But, it was too much and they overcame me. I gave up and sat myself and baby on the couch in the living room, happy to just yell through the screen door while my parents offered them up for sacrifice.

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Filed under birthing, daily life, delivery, emotions, hormones, lactation, mommy care, moms, newbie parents, newborns, nursing, post-partum, post-pregnancy

In Defense of the Epidural

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a couple weeks now. The issue of whether to go natural (or not) when it comes to childbirth is a very controversial subject, one about which many people are very passionate. But I find that there’s a lot of misinformation, on both sides of the issue, so it’s for that reason that I think it’s only fair that I share my story.

Full disclosure: I am not a childbirth expert. My experience is limited to one wee baby, so you can just take my story for what it is: one first-timer’s account.

I was pretty ambivalent about what kind of birth I wanted. I never wrote a birth plan (it seemed to me like an unrealistic way to try to micromanage a birth) and I didn’t do a ton of research about the whole birthing process (I basically took a three-hour crash course).

My whole take on the birth experience was just to let it happen and not plan too much. If I felt like I could do it without help from any drugs, then great. And if I couldn’t stand the pain, there was a solution for that. I figured that was the best attitude to have since I had nothing tangible in the way of experience to go on. About the only thing I cared about is that I didn’t go to the hospital too early; I couldn’t bear the thought of being sent home for some reason. I just wanted to stay at home as long as I could stand it because I’d be free to move and walk around as I saw fit and I could eat (yes, I know that’s random, but the thought of going like 12 hours with nothing but ice chips sounded bad to me).

I was very intrigued by the idea of a natural childbirth. I mean, it makes sense that you might be wont to introduce a drug into your system out of consideration for the baby, even though an epidural is a local anesthetic, which means it doesn’t circulate through your internal system into the baby’s.

I also was very impressed by the people who’d been able to manage a natural childbirth; they really had the strength, endurance, and tenacity to make it happen. I liked the idea of possessing those qualities myself.

But just how badly did it hurt?

When you ask most moms how much it hurt, they usually say something along the lines of, “Oh, it was really painful, but it’s all worth it in the end.” Okay, that was a fair response, but it didn’t tell me squat; I wanted to know exactly how much it hurt. So, I turned to the men.

The first husband I asked about his wife’s au naturel birth, gave me a super detailed play-by-play. In fact, it was more like a dissection of the whole event. The thing that most stuck with me about his account was how he described the blood just running down his wife’s legs as she was trying various standing positions. (I think at the time he was pretty horrified, and maybe even scared, as well, if the truth be told.)

The second husband that weighed in on the subject gave me these words of advice: “Don’t be afraid of the epidural.” After unleashing a litany of expletives on him and her mother as her labor progressed, he said that his wife only told him to “eff off” once after she got her epidural. (That seemed like a plus.)

Well, I’m going to tell you that labor hurts a lot. Like a lot a lot. My  labor first began around 1:30am. Those early labor contractions were manageable; they were really more uncomfortable than anything. They were just enough to make it impossible to get back to sleep. So, at about 4:30am, I got up. By 8:00am, the pain had jumped up a few notches. I found myself needing to get up an walk around my dining room table a few times until the contractions subsided.

Around 11:00am or so, I decided I needed to get in the shower because the contractions had ratched up in intensity yet again. (A hot shower totally provides relief but it’s rather short lived.)

By 1:30pm, I was having big enough contractions that I decided to call my doctor because I was starting to think that I should maybe go to the hospital. He asked me whether I thought I should go immediately or whether I could hold out a little bit. I said I could hang on for a bit, but I wasn’t sure how much longer.

Then he told me that this could be false labor, so not to panic if they sent me home. At that point, I was thinking, “Oh my god, if this is false labor I am in big trouble for the real thing.” It was hurting so much that I was starting to feel nauseous. (My mom, incidentally, looked and me and told me the doc was crazy because I was most certainly in labor.)

I took one more hot shower just before 3:00pm, and then I told my mom I thought I needed to go to the hospital. The contractions were seriously severe at this point. I remember sitting in the hospital admissions trying to give the woman my information and having to pause nearly after every word to wait for for the contraction to subside.

By 4:30pm, I was in the delivery room with the nurse telling me I was about 5cm dilated. She asked me what the pain was like and pointed me to a chart that went from 0 to 10, with zero being no pain and 10 being extreme pain. My contractions were coming in anywhere from an 8 to a 10, depending on the contraction.

So, by 6:30pm, I was done. I ordered the epidural.

That wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience either, just so you know, if you’re considering. Chances are that the anesthesiologist will stick the giant needle in your back at just the time when you have a level 10 contraction, which is exactly what happened to me. But I just kept doing the yoga-style belly breathing that I had been doing to get through my really tough contractions and got through the epidural as well, despite the weird but short-lived shooting pains that I had going from my butt down the back of my legs to my knees.

Wow. That’s about all I have to say about the epidural. Once it took full effect–I could tell by the fact that when the nurse propped up my left leg it immediately flopped to the side–I said to my mom, “I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this.”

I literally could not feel anything;  it was like my butt was a giant cinder block. There was absolutely no pain or even sense of contraction. And contrary to popular myths, the epidural didn’t slow down my labor. In fact, my contractions intensified and sped up.

But what was amazing about the epidural was that I could totally relax. In fact, I turned on the boob tube, watched a few episodes of The Office, and took a nap. Around 10pm or so, I woke up and the nurse told me to get ready because I was going to need to start to push.

It was a weird feeling to try to push when you can’t feel anything from your waist down, but I just focused my mind on tightening my abs down through my pelvic floor (it’s similar to pushing out a big poo) and I was doing it. I breathed like I would during a weight training exercise, with a big inhale followed by a long exhale as I worked the muscles. And voila, a little after midnight, we had a kicking, screaming baby on our hands.

So, when I look back, my birth experience was really not stressful at all. And I wasn’t totally wiped either. I mean, I was tired, but I felt pretty good overall. And I like that I was feeling rather peaceful and at ease when baby was born. I think that’s an appropriate way to welcome him to this world.

In saying all this, I don’t want to seem like I am unsupportive of people who choose to go au naturel. I think mommies-to-be should do what’s comfortable for them. I just share my story for those soon-to-be mommies who maybe are considering the epidural but are feeling a little guilty about admitting it.

I feel like there’s so much pressure these days to go natural that some moms are scared of saying in advance of the birth that they may want an epidural. (Conversely, I think it’s probably true that the medical field isn’t super supportive of many of the natural birthing techniques. I also think many mommies aren’t all that well educated about this type of birth.)

But with all that said, I think the term “natural” childbirth is really a misnomer; it’s really just a medicine-free birth. I don’t like the implication that a birth with pain medication is un-natural. I’m pretty sure that I’m just as much a mom as someone who did the whole 24-hour labor without meds; I just chose to not have any pain. (And when I say no pain, I mean literally none. Not even for the crowning.)

So, at the end of the day, it’s all about choice. I’m just here to share my story and provide reassurance that i f you go for the pain meds (1) you are still a good mom and (2) baby will be fine. I don’t see any reason to think that a baby will have more problems with an epidural than with nothing. Complications can pop up any time, without warning, whether you’ve got the best doctor at your side or you’re giving birth in a bathtub at home. Any day, anything can happen. So, don’t stress yourself out about what you “should” do and just do what makes you most comfortable.

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Filed under birthing, delivery, epidural, hospital, natural childbirth, newbie parents, newborns, pregnancy

A New Addiction

There are some things that are easy to say that you’d never do as a parent. And then you become one.

The first thing I did a 180 on was baby’s bed. I had been adamant that baby was going to be sleeping in one of two places–the lovely crib I had put together or the super pack ‘n’ play that had nearly gotten the better of me during its assembly. I wasn’t interested in a cradle or bassinet and the idea of a co-sleeper contraption wasn’t particularly appealing to me either. Babies belong in their own beds not mine.

At least that was my thinking right up until the first night we had baby at home.

My husband and I were sleeping on our pull-out couch; not only were both our mothers staying with us, but with how bad I was feeling, it was easier to get to the bathroom and the freezer (my need for ice packs was serious). Baby was supposed to doze in the pack ‘n’ play next to us. Then came that first midnight feeding.

Move over, daddy, make room for baby.

Part of it was sheer laziness. I was in pain and didn’t want to even roll to my side much less try and get up from a reclining position to a standing position and walk to the pack ‘n’ play (it was a whopping three steps away). And part of it was exhaustion. I was so tired that I could barely keep one eye open while feeding.

But I think the biggest driver was that I just didn’t want to be away from him. I’d gotten so used to having him with me 24/7 in utero that it was really hard to even be three steps away. I needed to feel his warm little body, hear his whisper of a breath, and smell his baby smell.

But for as sweet and special as these moments with the wee one in the wee hours were, I still kind of felt like I was doing something bad by renegging on my original position on baby’s sleep habits.

Some of it was probably the gazillion pamphlets on SIDS that had been given to me by my OBGYN, the nurses at the hospital, the military doctor we saw two weeks after baby was born, etc. The rules were pretty simple: always lie baby on his back, don’t smoke around baby, don’t use a lot of excess bedding (bumpers, comforters,  and sleep positioners are a no-no), and never, ever, ever let baby sleep in bed with you.

So, yes, I felt some amount of guilt that perhaps I was jeopardizing my baby by having him near me at night, even though our risk profile for SIDS is probably zero.

But the other thing that was making me feel guilty was that I felt like I was paving the path to a very bad habit.

I remember when my husband and I were crib shopping. We were at Ikea and I was trying to convince him that we should buy this cute blue crib. He didn’t want to buy it because he felt that it looked cheap and he didn’t want to put his kid in something that would fall apart. I argued that cribs were essentially disposable furniture anyway–the kid would either destroy itor we’d want something different for the next kid–so why spend an arm and a leg on one.

As we were discussing, a man came through with a five-year-old and a two-year-old in his arms. Seeing an opportunity to throw some informed opinion behind his argument, my husband asked this man to weigh in on the crib debate. Would our soon-to-be-born infant be comfortable and safe in a crib that cost $130?

“Would you put your kid to sleep in that?” my husband asked him, pointing to the crib I liked.

The guy kind of gave us a tired but bemused smile–like he’d been there and lost that battle before–and told us he didn’t really know that much about cribs for newborns.

“Our babies slept in the bed with us,” he said.

“This one still does,” he added, nodding toward the babe in his arms.

“How old is he?” I asked.

“Two,” he said with a heavy sigh.

I’d venture a guess that if I ran into the same guy in a year, baby would still be sleeping in his bed.

I totally can see how it happens. Not only is there comfort in having my perfect little one close by my side, but I swear that baby sleeps better (and therefore I get more sleep) when he’s in bed with me. And with hubbie in training for the moment, there’s plenty of room for baby and me.

However, I’m trying to go cold turkey on the co-sleeping because I don’t want to end up with a teenager in my bed. I’m through week three and baby is sleeping in his own bed–the pack ‘n’ play shoved in the corner of my bedroom at my parents’ house–every night. Well, almost always. I still can’t resist pulling him into bed with me after his 6am-ish feeding. Those few hours of sleep are absolutely blissful.

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Filed under birthing, co-sleeping, daily life, moms, newbie parents, newborns

Baby Daddy Drama

Over the past week I’ve found myself watching a lot of crap TV. I guess that’s what happens when you combine a new mommy with hungry baby and cable television. You see all sorts of stuff at all hours of the day, from documentaries on Benjamin Franklin to reality series like Basketball Wives.

I’ve been particularly obsessed with this show on Vh1 called Dad Camp. The premise of the show is that six soon-to-be baby daddies (and their pregnant teen partners) go through an intense parenting course to learn to become respectable fathers. As part of the coursework, they not only get graded on how well they complete child care exercises (installing a car seat or comforting a crying baby, for example) but they also have to go through therapy with their baby mommas (and sometimes baby mommas’ mommas).

Part of the entertainment of the show is that these dads-to-be are complete disasters. Immature, irresponsible, angry, clueless, and most often jobless, it’s surprising that any of these miscreants would even show up to a show like this, where they are expected to submit to a behavioral overhaul. Point in case is the guy who calls his girlfriend that she’s a “stage five clinger” (bad). Or the guy who makes out with another girl the first night the couple is at Dad Camp (worse).

But for all the daddy drama on the show, the whole idea of dad camp is completely intriguing to me.

For as excited as my husband was about the idea of us having a crumb cruncher to call our own, there were times in my pregnancy where I had to wonder if my husband had any idea of what bringing up baby actually meant.

Part of the disconnect I trace to my husband’s personality. He’s a natural-born extrovert with a sharp wit, a combination that often makes it seem like he doesn’t take much seriously. The other part is that he has been wrapped up in some intense training for the past 14 months, which has kept him a little out of the loop in terms of the day-to-day stuff at home. And then there’s the fact that he’s an only child, so he hasn’t gotten much , if any, practice with babies. (Not that I really know what the hell I’m doing either.)

So, thinking that we (but really more him) needed a crash course in all things babies (I was the one reading the baby books, after all), I signed us up for the birthing class taught by Juliana Parker of Birth-n-Babies. Then on second thought, I also signed us up for her breastfeeding class.

But for as much as we felt like we got our money’s worth out of the classes, I still felt like sometimes he didn’t “get” it. He was definitely excited, but it was like he had no concrete idea of what life was going to be like when our wee one arrived. And it was freaking me out.

Here’s an example: We were invited to a wedding in Hawaii in December. My husband really wanted to go (so did I), especially since I’d never been there. Plus, we had airline vouchers that we could use to book the flight, which was a bonus. But I was stressing over what to do with the baby. We couldn’t drop him off with the grandparents, so what to do? Do we try to upgrade our seats to business class and keep the baby on our lap? Or do I just book a third seat in coach for the bambino?

These are the things that stress mommies like me out, but dad had nothing to say other than to roll his eyes when I told him how expensive flights to Hawaii were (it is Hawaii, after all, it wasn’t going to be cheap). And then he made the fatal mistake of saying, “Does the baby really need his own seat?” (The flight from D.C. to Honolulu is how long?) I won’t share with you my reaction to that.

There were a few other moments like that in the later part of my pregnancy where it was clear that he had no idea how life was going to change. And if I had known about a sleep-away daddy camp, I would’ve had him on the first bus.

Unsure if what I was seeing in my husband was an anomaly or not, I’ve asked a few friends if their husbands were similarly as infuriatingly clueless the first baby around. I’m sure that there are exceptions, but my conclusion is that it’s totally a guy thing.

I talked to a therapist friend of mine about this phenomenon. Her professional take on it was that while mommies-to-be and newbie mommies are so acutely aware of baby–baby is top of mind 24/7–for many newbie daddies, it continues to sort of be “all about them” for awhile even as mommies are doing the hard work of carrying the next generation. And when it’s not, they can sort of act out. They get frustrated, irritated, annoyed, pouty, and sulky about all the things that they suddenly can’t do (or, alternatively, all the things that they now have to do that they don’t want to do) now that baby is in full focus.

So, I asked my therapist friend how long this sort of alternate reality lasts. When do the daddy instincts kick in in full, putting them on the same page as mommies?

Month four. That was her professional opinion as to when men, in general, really start to bond with baby and grow fully into the daddy role. Why month four? She says it’s because by month four baby has started to really respond and interact. Baby smiles, giggles, recognizes the ‘rents, etc.–and dads really connect with that. Those outward expressions serve almost as mini validations of their role and importance in the life of the wee one.

Her theory makes a lot of sense to me, but I wish, as mommies, we didn’t have to wait so long sometimes. And even though I realize that this is part of a natural progression, I still wish there was a baby boot camp that normal first-time dads could go off to for some pre-baby training. I’m talking not only car seat installation and crib construction, but diapering, burping, swaddling, and round-the-clock feedings. If nothing more, it would hopefully give newbie dads a little perspective on everything moms have been stressing about for months while hardly any of it has been more than a fleeting thought in dads’ minds.

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Filed under birthing, daddy care, daily life, education, mommy care, nesting, newbie parents, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy, Uncategorized

Hip Hope Hooray!

A few days ago I was taking stock of my post-pregnancy body, wondering when I was going to feel and look like the real me. Every day I seem to be getting closer to what I once was, although I was noticing that my mommy hips didn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. (You can read the full post here.)

The remedy I was looking for didn’t seem to be a postpartum wrap or even a girdle. I needed something that would somehow coax my hips back into their pre-pregnancy position rather than just hold in the flabby front section.

I thought my search was going to be long and perhaps even fruitless. But as I was cruising the aisles at Target a day or so ago, I came across what appeared to be my perfect solution. Check it out:

Official Hipster Uniform

These bad boys are sort of like spandex workout shorts with an extra elastic band at the waist. According to the tag, this Hanes brand “sculpting band thigh slimmer” garment (in “firm shaping” strength) offers the following:

  • wide band provides tummy control & rear definition
  • firm control for maximum shaping
  • sleek silhouette that sculpts & contours all over

Again, the focus seems to be on taming an incorrigible midsection, but I think this garment’s biggest selling point is that the super-strength elastic band is wide enough so it comes down over your hips. So, it keeps the mid-drift pulled in while applying some elastic pressure to the hips–it’s a veritable two-in-one. Almost as versatile as a reversible jacket. (Just kidding.)

I’m sure other people wouldn’t mind wearing them under their clothes during the day, but I am a little uncomfortable with all those layers, so I’m only wriggling into these things under the cover of night. My new “pajamas” aren’t exactly sexy, but they pair nicely with the oversized, ratty t-shirt that I’ve been wearing. (Can you tell my husband’s not home?)

It’s too early to tell if they’re working as I so want them to, but I’m on the case. Stay tuned to find out if these magical mystery pants give my hips hope that they’ll return to their natural state.

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Filed under birthing, mommy care, moms, post-partum, post-pregnancy, shopping

To Hell with the Hormones

One of my dearest friends was kind enough to give me a call the other day to find out how I was doing. The hubster had gone back into the field and my mom and other house guests had returned to their homes and normal lives. My house was finally empty and I was alone with baby, so she thought I might be feeling rather down in the dumps.

It was pretty good timing on her part because I had been thinking a lot about the so-called “baby blues” that I had heard so much about during my stay in the hospital. (The nurses had even sent me home with an informational pamphlet.) I was wondering if I was going to get them, what was it going to feel like, and would I recognize that I was in fact enduring my very own blue period.

So, when my friend asked me how I was doing, I really didn’t know how to answer. I mean, did I miss my husband? Of course. It was definitely heartbreaking to see him leave; he only got five days with his newborn son before he had to go back for training. Was I sad to see my mom go home? Absolutely. I can’t hardly put words to how much she did for me and baby during her time with us.

To me, that didn’t really sound like baby blues kind of stuff. That just sounded like life. Who doesn’t miss her mom or her husband when they aren’t near–new baby or otherwise? But even if I wasn’t technically suffering from the big, bad baby blues, I definitely wasn’t feel exactly emotionally stable.

I held a pretty even keel during my pregnancy. I was definitely more emotional every time my husband came home and then had to leave again; it can be sometimes overwhelming to be managing your family’s life–from your career to the house to the finances to the construction work we were having done to the dog–by yourself. Fortunately, I had a plain vanilla type of pregnancy, so I felt good and had few issues, so dealing with all that other stuff on my own was actually possible, even if less than desirable.

But in the days following baby’s arrival, I found myself getting super emotional at random times.

One night I was sitting on my front porch, enjoying a beautiful evening and a nice glass of wine and I totally got weepy just thinking about how amazing the stars were and how much I enjoyed my life.

Guaranteed Tear Jerker

Another evening, I got the waterworks flowing after I stupidly started leafing through the nursery staple, Guess How Much I Love You. (I strongly advise new mommies to hold off on reading that childhood favorite for awhile. I’ve opened the damn book three times and dissolved into soggy mess every time, so I’m thinking I need to wait until the hormones even out before I try that again.)

And then just the other night, I was watching Grey’s Anatomy and one of the doctor’s had to put another doctor’s dog down. I was a total mess watching the episode. I just kept thinking about how sick my own pup had been just a few weeks before–five days in doggy ICU was stressful to say the least–and how scared I had been that we were going to lose him.

So, I start telling my friend that what I was getting emotional about was not really baby-related stuff. I was finding myself getting worked up over bigger, darker thoughts. For example, I kept thinking about the fact that one day I was going to lose my mom. That thought would just pop up unexpectedly in my head and even if I didn’t spend much time entertaining it, it would have me so upset.

I was sort of embarrassed to be saying any of this out loud, even if it was to my best friend, but I felt better  when she told me she totally understood. “You’re literally just in awe of the miracle of life,” she said.

I have always hated that term–“miracle of life”–but I think she may have hit on something very real. Suddenly you have this perfect little baby in your arms and your sort of have these feelings of amazement and wonder colliding with a crushing sense of responsibility. And you also realize that your mom felt this way about you and you feel grateful to have her as your mom and guilty that you weren’t less of a pain in the ass. It’s a perfect storm of emotions.

But I think the thing that really “gets” to me is coming to grips with a basic fact of life: Nothing lasts forever. As exciting as it is to watch, anticipate, and enjoy the baby growing and changing, there’s no getting around the reality that every day is one less day we have. We’re all getting older and eventually our time will be up. Our mom’s won’t be with us forever and we’re not going to be with our kids forever, either. That sort of face-to-face with mortality is proving rather hard to digest for this newbie mommy.

“You probably don’t want to hear this,” said my friend. “But that feeling takes awhile to go away.”

Her daughter is two and she says she’s just feeling like she’s getting past that whole we’re-all-going-to-die-someday realization now.

Great. So much to look forward to.

So, knowing that all these feelings are (1) normal and (2) not going anywhere soon, even if their rapid onset and intensity calm down as my hormones get back in line, I’ve decided to ban certain tear-jerking items from my life until my hormones gone on hiatus:

  • Sentimental children’s books. I’ve moved books such as the classic Guess How Much I Love You or Billy Crystal’s I Already Know I Love You to the bottom of the pile of books in my nursery.
  • High drama TV shows. No medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy or House or any of the other rip off shows and no crime or mystery shows, particularly (and sadly) Law and Order SVU.
  • Anything with animals. I basically do everything I can to avoid Animal Planet in general and any shows in particular that showcase authorities removing animals from disgusting homes.
  • Sappy movies. Chick flicks definitely got me through my pregnancy, but I’m not even going near anything with any sad undertones. Topping my list of do-not-sees for fear of flooding are P.S. I Love You, Family Stone, Steel Magnolias, My Sister’s Keeper, My Life, The Notebook… you get the idea.

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Filed under baby blues, birthing, depression, emotions, mommy care, post-partum, post-pregnancy, pregnancy

These Hips Don’t Lie

Figuring out your post-baby body takes patience, something I generally run short on. So, for the past three weeks, every day I take a look at myself to find out what, if anything, has changed while I was sleeping–well, maybe not sleeping but rather napping. I guess that’s a more appropriate term for the two- to three-hour bouts of rest that I get.

So, as best as I can tell, there’s little that has totally gone back to normal. Bladder control has resumed, which is definitely something to be really excited about. I’m no longer sprinting to the restroom at the first inkling of the thought that I might have to pee.

But there’s still a lot that’s a work in progress.

For example, the random, red, itchy bumps that sometimes graced my cheeks during pregnancy still make an occasional appearance. My hair continues to fall out, even though I continue to take my vitamins and fish oil pills. I thought for sure the vitamins would prevent the big shed, but apparently not. I have no idea when that might subside, but I’m hoping the shedding doesn’t develop into a bald spot like my hair dresser told me she developed after her son was born. (Ironic, isn’t it?)

My boobs still have a mind of their own post baby, but it seems like they might be close to finding an equilibrium, which no doubt will mean less engorgement and, therefore, less tightness and pain. (Literally, your boobs get so full sometimes that they are hard to the touch. Yet another thing I hadn’t realized would happen.) And the patch job that I got post birth is still an issue. There’s still some bleeding and slight discomfort, but I will say that I don’t need ice pack maxi pads anymore and my ibuprofen intake is way down. I don’t need either daily anymore, so I’m taking that as a sign that I’m definitely on the mend. (Thank, god.)

So, it’s my mid-section that I’m obsessing about most these days. I was really worried when I first came home from the hospital because I had this jiggly paunch for a belly. The rest of me was normal, but my tummy was definitely puffy. The puffiness has gone down–it’s true what they say about breastfeeding helping the body contract–so now I’m left with a belly that just looks like it’s never seen a sit-up. It’s not big or round, really, it’s just, well, flabby looking.

Describing your middle as flabby doesn’t sound all that good, but in a way, I can deal with that because the  way my tummy looks and feels, it seems like it’s something that a few thousand sit-ups could fix. I feel like I could almost start doing a few–and I stress a few because literally I have no core strength right now–now, but the doctors recommended no exercise for six weeks post birth, so I guess I should probably hold off for at least a little bit longer before attempting my first sit up. It will no doubt be a major feat. Maybe I should video it for kicks.

But what I find most depressing about the post-birth bod is my hips. Everything else seems to be shrinking, even if it’s at a pace that’s at odds with my impatience, but these haunches seem perfectly content to remain as open as the day Baby Aleksi was born. So, for as much as I thought I had nothing to wear when I was nine-months preggers, I have even less now. I am not exaggerating when I say I have three pairs of pants–well, technically a pair of khaki pants, a pair of khaki capris, and a pair of khaki shorts–that fit. Now that the belly is fading, my maternity clothes are falling off me, but none of my un-pregger pants fit.

And I’m so not exaggerating when I say none of my normal pants fit. (I’m sorry, but yoga pants don’t count. For as much as I love them, I can’t wear yoga pants to dinner.( Even my slouchy jeans or cargo capris, which used to be my “comfortable” clothes–you know, the pants you put on when you’re going for cute rather than sexy–won’t button.

So, my big worry is that I’m going to have to chuck all the pants in my closet and start over–as a bigger person.

My best friend assures me that the body will go back to normal. She said she had put all her pants into a garbage bag for the Goodwill after her daughter was born. But she forgot about them and about six months later found the bag and tried on all the pants again, only to find that everything was now loose.

I’d love to believe this is true, but I also think my friend might be a freak of nature. Another good friend of mine sort of confirmed my fears, telling me that although the body gets closer to normal, it’s never really the same.

With that not being the answer I really wanted to hear, I’m now considering my options. My mom keeps telling me that it’s only been three weeks and I need to give it some time, blah, blah, blah. But it seems as though there’s got to be something I can do to help things move in the direction–smaller–that I want them to move.

Last weekend I was at a baby shower and I mentioned the hip issue to a woman who had a baby boy about a year ago. She looks amazing–like so un-mom like. If she didn’t have a wee one climbing up and down her side like a little monkey, I would’ve never thought that she had had a kid about a year ago. And that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not planning on getting a mini van or high-waisted jeans any time soon, so I’d rather go without the wide hips as well as I foray into mommyhood.

So, I asked what her secret was and she said she wore a post-partum belly wrap and then a girdle in the months following her son’s birth. And she swore that both helped her return to her pre-pregnancy size. (Alternatively, she said her mom used to wrap herself in Vaseline and Saran wrap following the birth of her kids and that seemed to work.)

I don’t know that I’m about to try the Vaseline and Saran combo–I’m still not sure if you’re supposed to put clothes on top of that–but I’m very intrigued by the post-partum wrap and girdle concepts. So, I’ve been looking at some online to see if I think getting back to what I was is worth the amount of money that these contraptions cost.

Honestly, I love the promise. Basically, both of these items hold you in. The wrap basically goes around your belly and velcros shut while the girdle you pull on like underoos. The idea is to train your body to hold itself tighter, making you smaller.

But my reservation, particularly when you look at enough $70 price tags, is that these items seem to target the belly area when I’m in need of some hip repair. I’m fairly confident that I can tighten my belly up with some basic ab exercises. So, am I going to feel ripped off if I buy one of these things?

My gut–no pun intended–says yes. So, the question is whether there are products on the market that can essentially pull my hips back together?

For now, I can’t come up with anything better than just buying a really good pair of spandex shorts or one of those Bella bands, you know, those elastic bands that pregnant women in denial use to get a few more miles out of their regular jeans before they officially graduate to maternity clothes. But I’m not sure that either one of those solution is going to fit the bill, so I’m on the hunt for an alternative solution, one that will save my pants. I really don’t want to have to throw them all away. That would be a very sad day.

So, for the moment, I’m just rocking out to Shakira until I find a solution. Have a listen and enjoy! Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira feat. Wycleff Jean

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Filed under birthing, maternity, maternity fashions, mommy care, moms, newborns, post-pregnancy

The Joys of In-Hospital Shopping

You’ve probably heard of in-flight shopping even if, like me, you’ve never purchased anything from the Sky Mall while traveling. But in-hospital shopping? Seriously? That was a new one for me until about a week ago.

I delivered baby at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. And my doctor was totally correct when he said it was a nice place to have a baby. You pretty much take a tour of some of the most expensive real estate in D.C. on your way to the hospital and then once admitted, you really do get pretty darn good care. About my biggest complaint was that the nurses kept forgetting to reload the hand sanitizer in my room, so if you were looking for a shot of the germ-killing gel, you had to walk out into the hallway, where there was another dispenser located right outside my room.

As part of the Sibley experience, new mommies get a lot of in-hospital support for breastfeeding. There’s a class new moms can attend every morning at 10:30 am with baby (I did) and you are going to see a lactation consultant at least once a day whether you like it or not (I loved it). Not to mention that you can call for a consultant on-demand, if you like. (I never had to do that because the consultants always seemed to have perfect timing; I was always nursing when they walked in.)

If you attend the class, which I totally recommend even if you, like me, took a pre-birth breastfeeding class, there’s a worksheet that you fill out where you identify your concerns, describe your breastfeeding experience to date, and also indicate whether you are interested in a fitting for a nursing bra. The consultants then work with you one-on-one on some of the issues you may be experiencing.

This personal attention was really an awesome service and a great follow-up to the class. These women (I apologize in advance if there were male lactation consultants on staff; I just didn’t see any) would come into your room and talk you through nursing. It’s sounds weird that you would appreciate a stranger touching your boobs, but I loved that they would take a good look at the latch and give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on it. If it wasn’t quite right, they’d help me adjust my position or the baby to improve the latch. Heck, they’d even look at your nipples and examine any hotspots and instruct you as to how to remedy them.

Honestly, I still have a bit of trouble with the latch on my right side–I think I’m just gimpy on that side for whatever reason–but I think I made darn good use of their expertise in the limited time that I had access to them. And as an added bonus, they are available for advice and help even after you leave the hospital. (That’s something on my growing to-do list if the baby will sleep long enough to let me.) Plus, they give you a sheet with a whole list of breastfeeding support centers and consultants in the D.C. area. (Not to worry, I’ll share that later, too.)

At any rate, to get back to the story, I had checked that I wanted to see someone about a fitting. Pre-baby, I was hesitant to go overboard on the nursing gear. I didn’t buy a super pump or nipple shields or anything like that. I bought one Gilligan & O’Malley nursing bra in black from Target, a tube of lanolin, a box of nursing pads, and a small package of Soothies by Lansinoh Gel Packs, which my friend Betsy swore by. And to be honest, I only bought the last three items because I had a discount coupon and wanted to try out Diapers.com to see if they were all they were cracked up to be. (They are.)

So, the morning of my discharge, in walks one of the lactation consultants to see about a fitting. I really wasn’t in the mood at that point–I just wanted to get out of Dodge–but I felt bad because I had indicated some interest and here she was, so I obliged. (Incidentally, I measured what she called a “full C or small D,” as if there was such a thing as a small D.)

She tells me she’s going to look to see what she’s got in my size–she had left her cart parked in the hallway–and returns seconds later with about six different packages, telling me she’s got every style in about six different colors.

I was really wanting a nursing tank, which I thought would be great for summer, so I immediately gravitated to that. I had checked out the selection at Target when I bought my regular nursing bra but had not purchased a tank, mainly because I was a bit freaked out by the style. The tanks at Target had the clip on the strap, but when you folded the front panel down, there were two holes for your boobs. I was so not digging that; it appeared a little too S&M for my tastes.

At any rate, the Bravado Designs tanks that she was peddling were so much more normal, so I decided to purchase two–one in a hot pink (shown here)

My First In-Hospital Purchase

and one in black (you can never go wrong with black). Although these were more expensive than than the Target variety, I still got them at a discount just for going to the breastfeeding class. And I think they were worth the money. Not only are there no cop-a-feel holes, but I feel like they are better constructed. They run a little bit longer–all the better to cover the post-postpartum pudge–are much more supportive–think more elastic than regular cotton–and come with a really nifty quick-release clasp that I

A Clasp I Can Actually Undo with One Hand

actually can undo and button up with one hand. The only thing is I wish I would’ve bought one size larger because when my boobs are really full, I feel a little constricted. But maybe that won’t be an issue a few more weeks down the road when things settle into a routine.

I also ended up buying a third nursing bra, one that the consultant had described as “not supportive but great for wearing around the house.” I

My Favorite Nursing Bra

absolutely love, love, love this nursing bra. The fabric is super soft, so it doesn’t irritate sensitive nipples and there are no clasps to fuss with; you just sort of pull down one side and you’re good to go. As the woman had said, it’s not super supportive, but I find that it’s holds me in pretty darn well. I mean, I wouldn’t go jogging in it, but I could definitely wear it under a shirt and go out in public without feeling indecent. In retrospect, I wish I

Stretchy + Soft = Super

would’ve bought two of these bad boys and only one of the nursing tanks. But I would rethink my color selection. I chose white because it looked clean and fresh, but a few lanolin application later and it’s stained. (The things that I wish I’d known about lanolin before I started applying it all the time.) So, to do it over again, I’d also choose black or brown or some other dark color.

My in-hospital shopping excursion had a grand total of about $106 for the three bras, which even though my husband rolled his eyes as I handed over my debit card, I thought it was fairly reasonable. Not as cheap as Target, but not ridiculously overpriced either.

At any rate, I thought this shopping experience was rather interesting and had a lot of potential to be expanded. Granted, you could also buy baby’s first portrait in the hospital also; I passed on that shopping opportunity because the brochure made all the babies look not so cute, so I figured it’d be a waste of money at the end of the day.

But it occurred to me that there were other things that I’m sure a lot of newly minted moms would buy from their hospital beds. I totally would’ve purchased a recovery care gift set, complete with mesh underoos, pain spray, and perineal ice packs, if the hospital had been selling them. And I know a couple of moms who thought that the little kimono style outfits that the babies are in during their hospital stay were not only cute but also super functional; given that a few of those outfits sneaked into their overnight bags when they went home, I’m sure there’s a market for selling them. Or even a baby care starter kit or a breastfeeding essentials kit, with products endorsed by the hospital, could be marketable.

Maybe by the next time I have a baby, there’ll be a whole catalog that I can peruse from my hospital bed.

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Filed under birthing, breastfeeding, hospital, moms, newbie parents, shopping